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the mandalorian moff gideon introduction

Some spoilers below for the penultimate episode of The Mandalorian.

The biggest thing to come out of Disney+'s streaming hit The Mandalorian is undoubtedly the adorable little creature known to fans far and wide as "Baby Yoda," with many fans heavily interested in being able to purchase Baby Yoda merch. But something many fans likely failed to notice was the live-action debut of a Star Wars toy that has been around for nearly 40 years without ever officially appearing in the film franchise.

Think back to the second-to-last episode within The Mandalorian's first season, titled "The Reckoning." Near the episode's climax, when Moff Gideon's Stormtrooper army is arriving in droves, a handful of the Troopers arrive in a particular vehicle that fans have never seen in live-action before, the Imperial Troop Transporter. For anyone who needs a quick reminder:

star wars the mandalorian troop transport

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Within the episode, the Troop Transporter only shows up for as long as it does in the GIF above, but it still marks a fairly historic moment within the Star Wars franchise, where toy lines are as much a part of the lore as everything else. Kenner's Imperial Troop Transporter first appeared way back in 1978-1979, coinciding with the release and popularity of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, and though the toy itself was popular enough with kids (and action-figure-adoring adults), the Imperial Troop Transporter never managed to find its way into the live-action films.

Below, you can check out a commercial for Kenner's Imperial Troop Transport to see the original model in action. This version reportedly aired in 1980, ahead of the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

The Imperial Troop Transport featured six buttons that activated quotes and sound effects from the Star Wars film, such as cannons, with R2D2 and C-3PO also thrown into the mix. Naturally, the toy itself didn't come filled with Stormtroopers, which were sold separately. And considering kids at the time probably didn't have a half-dozen spare Stormtrooper toys, I assume kids transported many different franchises' main characters between fictional locations.

Now, just because The Mandalorian is the first live-action project to include the Imperial Troop Transport, that doesn't mean the vehicle has only existed in toy form over the past four decades. On the contrary, the transporter has popped up in many different project, both canonical and non-canonical. It has appeared in Star Wars comic books and novels in recent years, and it has shown up in animated form plenty of times in Disney's Star Wars Rebels, as well as in the corresponding Rebels tie-in lore. (Maybe another hint that Rebels will serve as connective tissue for Mandalorian's universe.)

While Jon Favreau and his creative team could have used just about any vehicle to show up in the penultimate episode, The Mandalorian's crew has outdone itself again and again when it comes to honoring lesser-seen elements within the timeless mythos. That said, Mando has yet to welcome the most famous bounty hunter of them all, Boba Fett, so here's hoping Season 2 finds ways to bring him and more into the fun.

Fans shouldn't be too surprised that there were more Star Wars toys than there were available spots within the films to showcase them. This was, after all, an era in which action figures were created specifically to launch fantastical worlds ripe for adapting into cartoons and movies, such as Masters of the Universe and Transformers. If there were enough of them, I'd be down to watch a Star Wars series that focuses ONLY on the toys that never made it into the movies.

It'll likely be a while until we do see anything from The Mandalorian Season 2, which is set to debut on Disney+ in Fall 2020. We do know that Jon Favreau & Co. are working hard on that second set of episodes, though, so here's hoping they'll be just as fan-pleasing as the first set.